What is a college education without real life application?
In the broadest sense, the purpose of a college education entails more than just receiving a degree or certification. Many universities actively seek out young people with an avid sense of community, involvement, and philanthropy because of their mission to not only educate students, but also to prepare them to take on a contributing and thriving role in society. College volunteer programs focused on community outreach are a smart start and LIFT provides just that opportunity for students across the country.
LIFT began in 1998 when Yale students Kirsten Lodal and Brian Kreiter became overwhelmed by the poverty they witnessed through volunteer opportunities in their community. Having volunteered with several child service organizations, Lodal and Kreiter noted a major deficit in assistance for the parents of children involved in child services. LIFT takes steps toward solving this problem by working one-on-one with their clients to help parents find jobs, housing, and community resources to get them back on track.
LIFT exists as a means to not only assist one community or neighborhood, but also provides students from many different college campuses a way to get plugged in with their communities. LIFT’s success lies in the unique core of student volunteers, who have expanded the program to include the cities of Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
The fact that LIFT is not associated with one particular college campus and is instead based out of these major cities creates unique volunteer opportunities. The program allows students to volunteer alongside members of the community who may not be involved on campus. LIFT pushes students of all majors to take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to pivotal society roles. Colleen Flynn, manager of media relations, says “Our volunteers graduate with a fuller sense of the concepts and policies presented to them in their classes, as well as some of the most rewarding volunteer experiences out there.”
In addition, LIFT affords students the opportunity to network with volunteers from other cities. While students have played a significant role in developing and expanding LIFT, anyone can volunteer. Giving someone a LIFT is as simple as checking LIFT out online and filling out the volunteer application.
When you go on a college tour and visit campus, be sure to inquire about volunteer and community outreach programs. The more you know about how you can become involved in your school and community, the more you will get out of your college experience.
Valerie McGinnis is a freelance writer and student at Liberty University. Val will graduate in 2011 with a degree in English. She is a regular contributor to SmartCollegeVisit.